'PoK would've been ours had we opted for military action'
NEW DELHI: Ruing that air power had not been fully utilised by the Indian government till the 1971 war, Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha on Thursday said Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) would have been India’s had the country gone for a military solution rather than taking a “moral high ground”.
In unusually candid remarks, Raha termed PoK as a “thorn in our flesh” and said India did not follow a “pragmatic approach” to security needs. “Only time air power was utilised was in the 1971 war. The result was that Bangladesh was created in just about 15 days,” Raha said at an aerospace seminar here.
“In the 1965 conflict, we did not use air power against East Pakistan because of political reasons, despite the Pakistani Air Force operating from East Pakistan attacking our air bases, infrastructure, aircraft on ground. We had severe setbacks but we never retaliated,” Raha added. “We are ready to use aerospace power to defend ourselves and even deter conflicts in the region,” he stated.
He said India’s security environment is vitiated and aerospace power, as part of military power, would be required to deter a conflict in the region and ensure peace and tranquillity.
“Our foreign policy was enshrined in the charter of the UN, charter of the Non-Alignment Movement as well as the Panchsheel doctrine. We have been governed by high ideals and we really did not follow a very pragmatic approach, to my mind, to security needs. To that extent, we did ignore the role of the military power to maintain conducive environment,” Raha said.
He said India as a country was “reluctant” to use military power, especially air power, in deterring adversaries when the country was drawn into conflicts several times in the past. When hordes of raiders attacked Jammu and Kashmir in 1947, it was the transport planes of the IAF which helped Indian soldiers and equipment reach the battleground, he said.
“And when a military solution was in sight, taking moral high ground, I think we went to the UN for a peaceful solution to this problem. The problem still continues. PoK remains a thorn in our flesh today,” he added.